The Unethical, Depressing, Bar Complaint Against Kellyanne Conway

kellyanneThis post is one I do not want to write, and the fact that I have to write it is profoundly depressing. It requires me to criticize, indeed blow the whistle on,  professional colleagues in the fields of law and ethics, some of whom I know and admired very much, as well as fellow members of the District of Columbia Bar. Some of these colleagues are also members, like I am, in a distinguished association dedicated to the field of legal ethics. A superb book on the topic by one of the professors involved  sits in a prominent place in my office bookshelf.  I can see it right now.

Yesterday evening, I learned that a group of fifteen law professors and lawyers have filed a professional misconduct complaint against White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway, claiming that she violated the Rules of Professional Conduct for attorneys by giving false statements to the media. The fifteen signed the complaint, which was filed with the D.C. Bar’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel. When I read the names, signed on a statement printed upon the official stationery of Abbe Smith, a distinguished full time professor at my alma mater, (and where I worked in the administration for four years), Georgetown University Law Center, my heart sank. While I did not need to read the whole complaint to know it was contrived and intellectually dishonest nonsense, I did, and it fulfilled my worst fears. The anti-President Trump hysteria that has caused so many previously fair and rational citizens on the Left to behave atrociously and to betray their previously held values has officially infected lawyers in the legal ethics field. They are now riding the rails on the 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck.

To be absolutely clear and unambiguous: the complaint is a political attack, and a cheap shot at the President of the United States through his staff. There is no merit to any of its contentions.

The professors claim that they were “compelled” to file the complaint because D.C. Rule of Professional Conduct 8.3 (a) requires that

“A lawyer who knows that another lawyer has committed a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct that raises a substantial question as to that lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects, shall inform the appropriate professional authority.”

They are either addled by partisan political animus or lying, because there is no way, no way, these fifteen professors could know that, or even validly conclude it, based on what they have written in the complaint. To call their accusations against Conway a stretch is to be too kind. They are forced, exaggerated, trivial and manufactured. From what I have read in past commentary and opinions of several of them regarding other matters of lawyer misconduct, I have serious doubts about whether they believe them. I know that’s a serious charge, but I see no other explanation, other than temporary insanity.

To begin with, Kellyanne Conway is not working in a legal position in Trump’s White House. She is Counselor to the President, not White House Counsel. The President and Conway may choose, for his protection, to treat her non-legal policy advisor position as a legal representation, but the fact remains that she is not providing legal advice and services, only policy-related ones. Now, lawyers can violate D.C. Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4, Misconduct, while not engaged in the practice of law, but unless the conduct involved is criminal or displays “moral turpitude” sufficient to call into question the lawyer’s fitness to practice the likelihood of the conduct being regarded as sanctionable by the Bar is vanishingly slim.

From everything I can determines, Conway, though she is a member of the New Jersey Bar and an inactive (she needs to pay back dues and take my mandatory D.C. Bar ethics course before she can practice) member of the District Bar, has not practiced law in more than 20 years. She has been a pollster, an activist, a flack and TV personality as well as candidate  Trump’s campaign manager, but none of her professional profiles refer to her as a lawyer. The complaint alleges that Conway “engage(d) in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation” in breach of D.C. Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4 (c), and did so while not engaged in the practice of law.  In order to bring down the wrath of the Bar, such conduct must be extremely serious, criminal or bordering on it. Rule 8.3 “limits the reporting obligation to those offenses that a self–regulating profession must vigorously endeavor to prevent.” What kind of non-law-related “offenses” must “a self–regulating profession…vigorously endeavor to prevent”?  It is well established that questionable statements that an individual with a law license utters in the course of political activity and advocacy is not such conduct. Continue reading

(PSSST! Bill Nye Fans? Honorary Degrees Aren’t Real Credentials…)

bill-nye-the-science-guy

I detest  stupid debates. In college I watched a local TV debate in Boston between Madalyn Murray O’Hair, the infamous atheist, and a local Catholic wacko known as Mrs. Warren, who talked like Chico Marx, on the topic of the existence of God. I finally called into the fiasco as “Jehovah” and got through the screeners for the program, which was called “Cracker Barrel. I used a cardboard toilet paper tube to make my voice sound unworldly as I assured O’Hair that Jehovah approved of her challenging the faithful, and would not turn her into a pillar of salt. O’Hair and the host thought it was funny. Warren said she would pray for me.

The upcoming debate between TV’s “Science Guy” and Sarah Palin over climate change is a good bet to be even more stupid than that debate, and for some of the same reasons. Like that debate, there is zero chance that anybody who is silly enough to bother watching will have their minds changed by what transpires because they, like Palin and Nye, already have their minds made up and facts have little to do with their points of view. Like the “Cracker Barrel” debate, it will really be about faith, what the adversaries want to think is true, and who they prefer to believe. Do either Sarah Palin or Bill Nye know what the world’s climate will be like in 100 years? No. Can either say with certainty that any particular policy measures will or will not have a salutary effect on conditions a hundred years from now? No.

It’s a stupid debate.

Nevertheless, only Palin is being mocked for participating in it, because Sarah Palin could cure cancer and the news media would mock her. It’s ridiculous for her to presume to debate anyone about climate change, but what about the fool who thinks its worth anything to debate her, whether he “wins” or not? It’s like mocking a Labrador retriever for having the hubris to debate John Kerry on U.S. foreign policy. What’s Kerry’s excuse? Continue reading

Ethics Quiz! Richmond Law School’s “Cool” Ad: Lame, Deceitful…Or Just Advertising?

Richmond ad Richmond-Law-ad

So, what do you think? Such esteemed legal commentators as TaxProf Blog and Above the Law have mocked and condemned the above Richmond Law School ad directed at law school applicants deciding where to plant their hopes. “The clubhouse leader for the lamest law school ad of 2013” snarked the former. “Calling it “lame” or “uncool” or “hackneyed” or any of the other words in the English language that denote a distinct inability to appear genuine or interesting doesn’t do the ad justice,” declared the latter. Then there is the little matter of puffery, which usually means deceit, spin, or exaggeration, except that in advertising such lies (for that is what they are) are mostly accepted as part of standard practice. That employment within nine months stat cited is dubious in the judgment of those who feel only legal jobs should count–apparently Richmond Law includes jobs where a JD is considered an asset, but the graduates are not working as lawyers. (On the other hand, almost every  job I’ve had since I graduated from laws school has been in the “JD advantage” category, and I’m satisfied with the results.) Continue reading